In this study we established a new animal model for exploring the pathogenesis of autoimmune pancreatitis. We have found previously that MRL/Mp-+/+(MRL/+) mice develop pancreatitis spontaneously by an autoimmune mechanism but only when they are more than 34 weeks old. Because this disease might be a model of multi-factorial diseases controlled by genetic and environmental factors, beginning at 6 weeks old, we injected polyinosinic:polycytidylic acid (poly I:C) into MRL/+ mice and in addition, into MRL/Mp mice bearing the Fas deletion mutant gene, lpr (MRL/lpr). Poly I:C induced chronic severe pancreatitis in all the MRL/+ mice and to a lesser extent in the MRL/lpr mice by 18 weeks of age. There was no pancreatitis in control mice of both strains at the same age. Other than chronic pancreatitis, no severe autoimmune diseases were observed in MRL/+ mice. Immunohistochemical examinations revealed predominant infiltration of CD4+ T cells and Mac-2+ activated macrophages in the pancreatic lesions. Splenic expression of the mRNAs for TNF-alpha and IL-10, which is known to suppress the development of pancreatitis, were increased in both strains of mice. These findings suggest that an MRL strain of mice treated with poly I:C might be a good model for developing new approaches to the study of the pathogenesis of autoimmune pancreatitis.